Red-tagged SF homes suffer more water damage

April 16, 2013 8:32:55 PM PDT
For two red-tagged homes on San Francisco's flooded West Portal neighborhood, the last thing they needed was more water inside the structures, but that's exactly what they got when the city accidentally turned the water back on.

Neighbors in the area have generally been very happy with the city's response to the situation but in an email, one upset homeowner said he is very upset because water was flowing inside his vacant home for three days. The city, however, disputes that claim.

The restoration company was back in the neighborhood on Tuesday cleaning up water damage at one of the red-tagged homes. It wasn't damage from back on February 27 when a 16-inch water main broke up the street. The damage was new, from the week before last, when city crews turned the water back on to two red-tagged homes, something that never should have happened.

Normally when water is stopped, the city locks the meter. That didn't happen here. "If we've been asked to turn off a service off, we lock it at the meter. We did not do that. It was one of our emergency contractors that turned off the water originally. So it was an error on our part, although we didn't allow it to run for a continuous amount of time," said Alison Kastama with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

The red-tagged homes are unsafe to live in because the flood opened up a sinkhole underneath them, so no one was inside to see the water flowing. "Unfortunately, it sounds like because of the emergency work done in two of those red-tagged homes, they had some open lines that were left cut for the shoring and the removal of a refrigerator that caused water to leak for a short period of time into two different parts of two different homes," Kastama said.

The city has been watching for more soil movement and settling since the main break. Through boring down in the street at one location in front of the red-tagged homes, they found flowing sands from 25 to 29 feet and used a mineral called bentonite to secure the hole and keep drilling. The city says the flowing sands are the creek that was filled when the neighborhood was built in the 1920s and is not a danger.

Still, even in non-red-tagged homes, recovery is slow. Kevin Flores says he's gotten no compensation from the city. "We have nothing. That's why we hired a lawyer," he said. "So far with damages and everything, we talked to the lawyer, it's around $100,000," he replied, asked if he had a total for what it will cost to fix everything.

The SFPUC says the water leaking into the red-tagged homes did not make the sinkholes any worse. In fact, above ground surveys now show no significant settlement of soil since February. Residents and homeowners were supposed to receive those survey results Tuesday.


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